Many famous and infamous dogs have lived in the White House throughout the rich history of the United States. President after president will decide on a family pet, and the decision is usually a very public one, with constituents weighing in. Occasionally, the White House pet receives as much attention from the media as the hot topics do.
One example is Richard Nixon’s dog, Checkers. In 1952, the former president was a candidate for the vice president seat, running with Dwight D. Eisenhower. The media focused on an $18,000 campaign contribution that Nixon may have used for personal gain. To get back on America’s good side and to remain on the ticket, Nixon addressed the nation with a speech denying using the contribution for person use. He also stated that he received Checkers as a gift and he would not be giving the dog back. This later turned Sept. 23 into Dogs in Politics Day. Here are a few other famous White House canines.
Fala, Franklin D. Roosevelt
Arguably one of the most famous presidential pets, Fala is a Scottish terrier that captured the hearts of many Americans. Fala was an early Christmas gift to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and his full name is Murray the Outlaw of Falahill, after his famous Scottish ancestor, John Murray of Falahill. Fala traveled with Roosevelt to Hyde Park, N.Y. and Warm Springs, Ga. He also made public appearances with Roosevelt, including special events and meetings with officials abroad. Roosevelt was criticized for accidentally leaving Fala behind on the Aleutian Islands while on tour there and sent a U.S. Navy destroyer to retrieve Fala at a high cost. The “Fala Speech” defended the dog, and it reportedly helped positively turn the election around for Roosevelt. Fala lived to be 11 years old, and he was buried next to the Roosevelts in the rose garden at Springwood. A statue of Fala is featured alongside Roosevelt in Washington, D.C.
Millie, George H.W. Bush
Millie was named for Mildred Caldwell Kerr, a long-time friend of the Bushes. She was the pet Springer spaniel of Barbara and George H.W. Bush, and she is recognized as one of the most famous White House dogs in history. During his 1992 bid for re-election, Bush mentioned Millie in his speech, saying that Millie knows more about foreign affairs than his opponents, Bill Clinton and Al Gore. Millie is credited as the author of Millie’s Book: As Dictated by Barbara Bush, making Millie the only “first pet” to write a book. She was also portrayed in an episode of Murphy Brown and Wings.
Him and Her, Lyndon B. Johnson
These two beagles were the most famous of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s dogs. Johnson was frequently photographed playing with them. One photograph that caught the attention of many was taken in 1964, when Johnson lifted Him up by his ears to greet a group on the White House lawn. Her died at the White House in November 1964 after she swallowed a stone. Him died in June 1966 after he was hit by a car while chasing a squirrel on the White House lawn. One of Him’s offspring, Freckles, was adopted by a White House staff member after the Johnsons left the White House.
Barney, George W. Bush
Barney is former President George W. Bush’s Scottish terrier. He was a gift from former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman to former First Lady Laura Bush. Most notably, Barney was the main star of the White House’s annual Christmas videos during the Bush administration. He starred in a total of 11 government film productions Barney was criticized by former White House official, Karl Rove, who said Barney was nothing but a “lump.” Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also criticized Barney and Bush saying that world leaders should own large, robust dogs, not smaller breeds. Putin went on to say that his black Labrador, Koni, is bigger, tougher, stronger, faster and meaner than Barney.
Bo, Barack Obama
Bo is the newest member of the first family. He is a Portuguese water dog, and he was the final choice because of Malia Obama’s allergies. Besides being the “first dog,” Bo’s claim to fame is his brother, Cappy. Cappy, named for Amigo’s Captain Courageous, was the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s dog. Although he has not been in office long, Bo has received quite a bit of media attention, as the public was interested to see what breed the Obamas would adopt. Originally, the Obama family seemed to emphasize their desire to adopt a shelter dog, but Bo was a gift from Senator Kennedy. However, Bo is considered to be a second-chance dog, as things did not work out for him at his first home. Upon joining the first family, Bo was immediately depicted in four children’s books, as well as a plush toy.